While participating in a Force Science Institute class recently, we got on the topic of handgun stopping power. What came out of that discussion was the understanding that handguns don’t really have stopping power. What really ends a fight is that the person you are shooting decides to stop shooting.

In most cases, the wounds inflicted by handgun rounds are not fatal. They are often not even severe enough to force a person to stop fighting. What really happens is that, once shot, the attacker often decides to stop fighting. When that happens, you get a situation like the case of Sgt. Timothy Gramins. A bad guy who just did not want to quit fighting attacked Gramins. That bad guy took 14 hits from Gramins’ .45 ACP. Doctors later said six of those hits were fatal shots. The final three shots hit the bad guy in the head; two in the face and one into the brain. When EMS arrived, the bad guy was still breathing and made it to the hospital alive.

Think about all those movie scenes you’ve watched over the years where one round from a 9mm puts someone on his butt. So fake. Don’t believe the hype.

Fight Like a Warrior

If you are fighting, you are fighting for your life. Make up your mind right now to keep fighting until you have stopped the threat. Keep shooting until the threat stops. Do you have spare ammo? Sgt. Gramins switched from a .45 to a 9mm and now carries 145 rounds on his person every time he goes on duty.

Conversely, if you are shot, keep fighting. Keep fighting until you are no longer physically able to move. Force your attacker to make a choice. I want your attacker to think, “Damn, this person is not going to quit. I should get out of here!”


Your willingness to keep up the fight will be the difference between life and death.

Now comes the tough question: If you were in a physical fight today — right now — could you do enough to get to your gun? If you were the victim of a sudden assault — if suddenly you found yourself on the receiving end of multiple violent blows — and you had to create space, defend your firearm and physically shove a person off of you so you could reach your gun, could you do it?

Training to Live

I’m not talking about going three rounds with Mike Tyson. I’m talking about 30 seconds of violent, physically demanding activity. Try it. Find a heavy punching bag, wrap your hands and wrists, put on the right gloves and start punching that bag hard and fast for 30 seconds. Some of you reading this should get a doctor’s permission before you try it. This is a humbling experience for all of us aging warriors.

When I did it a couple months ago, I was gasping at the end of 30 seconds. That one 30-second test was enough to remind me to refocus on physical fitness. Remember, you don’t have to sweat buckets to show improvement. Get out and walk for 30 minutes each day if you can. Start lifting some 10-pound weights while watching TV in the evening. Do something to get moving and keep moving. Stronger people are more difficult to kill.

Buying a gun does not make you a warrior. Doing what it takes to win the fight makes you a warrior. Be prepared. You don’t pick the day. The day picks you.